There are many ways to stop smoking, from quitting all at once to using nicotine replacements to joining a support group. No one way works for everyone. Decide what you're most comfortable with. Here are some suggestions.

If you can go without smoking for hours at a time, you may be able to go "cold turkey" and quit all at once. This may be the best way to achieve your goal.

If you really depend on your cigarettes throughout the day, you may do better if you taper off gradually. Nicotine replacement gum or patches allow nicotine to enter your bloodstream and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Studies have shown that nicotine replacement therapy coupled with a stop-smoking program helps many people cope with withdrawal and avoid relapsing. Nicotine-replacement products are not safe for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and people with serious health problems. You cannot continue to smoke while using nicotine-replacement products. If you have heart disease, do not use nicotine-replacement products without your doctor's approval.

Also available is a prescription medicine that works on the chemicals in the brain to make quitting a little easier for some smokers. Talk with your doctor about whether nicotine-replacement therapy or medicine is a good idea for you.

If you need group support, join a quit-smoking class sponsored by your company, your health plan, a local hospital, or the American Cancer Society (ACS) or American Lung Association (ALA) in your area. Ask your doctor for referrals or check your phone book for local ACS or ALA chapters in your community.

Set a Quit Date

Some people find it helps to write a contract with themselves that says "I will quit smoking on (date)" and to sign it. Choose a time with as little stress as possible. This way, you won't be as tempted to reach for a cigarette to cope. Look at your calendar over the next several weeks. Which week is likely to be the least stressful? Pick a date during this time. Quit during a weekend rather than during the workweek. This way, withdrawal symptoms will be less likely to impact your work. Post your contract in a place where you will see it every day.

Once you've followed these steps, you should be ready to quit. It will not be easy, but you can do it. Keep reading to learn more about how to stay motivated when quitting gets tough.